By Madelynn Coldiron
What do a small, “city” school district in northern Kentucky and a rural county district in the western part of the state have in common?
Both are the first districts in the state to go all eMeeting, uniting their district board meetings and school council meetings under the umbrella of KSBA’s paperless electronic meeting service.
Southgate Independent School’s council was the first to sign up after the service was fully launched. Trigg County High School was a pilot site for the service and when it was fully launched, all four of the district’s schools signed on. School boards in both districts already subscribed.
The service, which allows agendas, supporting materials and other documents to be posted online, has reduced paper use, increased efficiency and made the Southgate council more transparent, Superintendent Jim Palm said.
“(Our council) has ours set up so anyone in the community can view the minutes, agenda, any attachments by going to our website. The same with board meetings. And so I think it’s made our public more aware of what’s going on in our meetings,” he said.
Palm said he thinks this has raised the council’s visibility and interest in its business.
KSBA developed eMeeting for school boards in 2004 and a year ago rolled out the same service designed for school councils. Sixty-one school boards are eMeeting subscribers, while 10 school councils use the service, which includes training and information to help users meet the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
Trigg County Intermediate School Principal Brian Futrell said eMeeting has helped keep the council “on task” during meetings. Prior to meetings, he said, it allows members to log on, study the agenda and related materials to prepare, and to get questions answered in advance.
“It keeps you organized,” he said.
Katrina Kinman, KSBA senior policy consultant and eMeeting trainer, said the addition of councils to the system allows for more communication between them and the school board.
“Their board policies state that the councils are to forward minutes to the superintendent and to inform the board of different activities the council is doing. eMeeting helps them provide that information in a consistent manner, taking into account the autonomy of the council,” she said.
Palm said each body can see what the other is doing at a glance. “They can see how they were intertwined in their decision making,” he said.
Some parent members in Southgate weren’t as computer savvy as the teacher representatives, Palm said, “but it’s so easy to use” that they ultimately had little trouble.
Board or council members who are concerned about their ability to use the program during a meeting can use eMeeting’s “autopilot” feature. This allows the council member to follow the meeting screen of the person in charge, with their screen reflecting the same material.
“I always tell them, ‘If you can click and point, you can do it,’ Palm said.
KSBA is currently developing new features for eMeeting at the request of users, Kinman said, including adaptations for school/board committees and for internal staff and administrative team meetings.